A definition of Politics 2.0

In 2005, Tim O’Reilly published a seminal article — What Is Web 2.0 — in which he provided a definition for the term Web 2.0, which had gained a huge momentum during the previous year since the first edition of the Web 2.0 Conference in October 2004.

The concept gathered both technological and philosophical (in the sense of behaviours and attitudes) issues. At the technological level, it dealt about the importance of the web as a delivery (of content and services) platform by excellence; data as the core component of all kind of communications and interchanges; software as a service and not a product, then becoming more important access to software than its “physical” purchase; predominance to RSS and associated procedures for the exchange of content; or (while keeping the importance of the web as a platform) the need to create technologies that were portable across devices. At the philosophical level, and both cause and consequence of the technological advances, the spread (and enabling) of a contribution and participation culture by the society at large (and not only by institutions or organized associations); the acknowledgement that anyone could actually contribute with their knowledge and opinion (the “wisdom of crowds”); the raise of a culture of mixing, assembling and aggregating content; and the will to have rich user experiences when interacting online (vs. A passive, unidirectional, monotonous approach which had been common ground in the previous years).

Besides the “formal” definition of the Web 2.0, it has more often been described through some tools and the new and characteristic ways of using them: the blog and the nanoblog, the wiki, social bookmarking, photo and video sharing websites, tagging and “folksonomies”, syndication and aggregation, etc.

After this philosophical approach – boosted by the technological advancements – many have adapted some of the core definitions to many aspects of life. Thus, for instance, Education 2.0 often referred to as a shift from unidirectional lecturing towards a more participatory approach of learning, based in collaboratively creating learning materials, an intensive usage of web 2.0 tools, or openness and sharing of the process of learning, just to name a few. And along with Education, we can find debates around Research 2.0, Culture 2.0, Government 2.0, Journalism 2.0, Enterprise 2.0… and Politics 2.0.

But, quite often, we do not find specific definitions for such concepts, taking for granted that the reader will be able to do the translation from the Web 2.0 to the Whatever 2.0. I here provide my own definition of Politics 2.0, which I needed for a paper I am preparing about Politics 2.0 in Spain:

  • Ideas: not closed and packaged propaganda. Ideas that can be spread, shared and transformed by members of the party and partisans, sympathizers and supporter, and the society at large;
  • Open data: ideas are backed by incredible amounts of data and information made openly available to the general public, and most time provided with open licenses that allow their reuse and remix;
  • Participation: of all and every kind of people and institutions, blurring the edges of the “structures” and permeating the walls of institutions, making communication more horizontal and plural;
  • Loss of control of the emission of the message, that now can be transferred outside of mainstream media and diffused on a peer-to-peer and many-to-many basis by means of web 2.0 tools;
  • Loss of control of the creation itself of the message: being data and participation available, web 2.0 tools at anyone’s reach, and with minimum digital competences, the message can even be created and spread bottom up;
  • Acknowledgement, hence, of the citizen as some who can be trusted (and used) as a one-man think-tank and a one-man communication-media;
  • Reversely, possibility to reach each and every opinion, target personal individuals with customized messages, by means of rich data and web 2.0 tools, thus accessing a long tail of voters that are far from the median voter;
  • Construction of an ideology, building of a discourse, setting up goals, campaigning and government become a continuum that feedbacks in real time.

I admit that this is neither a usual or a formal description, nor a comprehensive set of characteristics. I believe, though, that it could serve in providing a fair framework to contextualize and explain what’s happening at the intersection of Politics and the Web 2.0.


PS: dedico aquesta entrada al José Antonio Donaire, l’Ernest Benach, el Carlos Guadián, i el Ricard Espelt, en qui no he deixat de pensar mentre l’escrivia.